Story at a glance

  • An individual’s view of leisure activity could have a significant effect on their mental health.
  • Researchers measured the relationship between a person’s view of leisure activities and their corresponding levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
  • They found that “if people start to believe that leisure is wasteful, they may end up being more depressed and more stressed."

An individual’s view of leisure activity could have a significant effect on their mental health and well-being, new research suggests. 

Researchers from the Ohio State University, Harvard and Rutgers measured in a series of studies the relationship between a person’s view of leisure activities and their corresponding levels of stress, anxiety and depression. 

"There is plenty of research which suggests that leisure has mental health benefits and that it can make us more productive and less stressed," study co-author Selin Malkoc, an associate professor of marketing at Ohio State University, said in a news release

"But we find that if people start to believe that leisure is wasteful, they may end up being more depressed and more stressed," Malkoc added. 


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One study asked 199 college students to rate their level of enjoyment across a variety of activities. The students were also given a series of statements to measure the degree to which they found a particular activity was wasteful — “Time spent on leisure activities is often wasted time,” for example. 

The results suggest the more a student viewed the leisure as wasteful, the less enjoyment they found from the activities. Additionally, researchers noted a correlation between negative views on leisure and elevated levels of stress, depression and anxiety. 

Another study, which was conducted online, asked 302 participants how they celebrated Halloween days after the holiday in 2019 and were subsequently asked how they rated their experience. The researchers noted that participants whose overall views of leisure activities were negative found less enjoyment in the holiday festivities. 

“But those who participated in fun activities that fulfilled responsibilities, like trick or treating with your kids, didn’t see such a reduction in how much they enjoyed their Halloween,” said study co-author Gabriela Tonietto, an assistant professor of marketing at the Rutgers Business School.


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The study also found a shift in the perception of an activity if it led to the completion of a larger goal. 

“If leisure can be framed as having some kind of productive goal, that helps people who think leisure is wasteful get some of the same benefits,” said study co-author Rebecca Reczek, professor of marketing at Ohio State in the release.

The findings were published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology


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Published on Sep 08, 2021